Njoroge Wachai at PostGlobal

Njoroge Wachai


Njoroge is a journalist who formerly worked for the Kenya-based People Daily. He was Africa Correspondent for the Science and Development Network (SciDev.net), a UK-based web site highlighting science and technology issues from developing countries. He also freelanced for the Switzerland-based Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO). Njoroge was a press fellow at the Wolfson College, University of Cambridge for four months in 2003, where he researched the role of alternative press in the democratization process in Africa. Njoroge currently lives in the U.S. He has studied Journalism and Technical Communication at the graduate level. Close.

Njoroge Wachai


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What Obama Owes Africa

Dear President Obama:

There's nowhere your presidency matters more than in Africa. I know some will differ with me on this; they will, rightly, say that your top priority should be to serve America. Well, I agree, but I must remind you of the folly of forgetting your roots.

Expectations are as high for your presidency in Africa as they are here in the U.S. You would deny your African roots at your own peril. Your deceased father hailed from Kenya, and that White House, where you'll be residing for the next four years, or eight years if you win in 2013, was built by African slaves. Don't you think you owe us something?

Now Mr. President, please don't get me wrong; we're not seeking handouts from your administration. We're smart enough to know America doesn't dole out freebies. What we want is an Africa that sticks to some of the ideals that you too much championed during the campaigns: democracy; respect for human rights; accountability and transparency from our leaders; trade policies that can create wealth in Africa and put more people to work. We're tired of visiting Washington with a begging bowl in hand.

President Obama, we Africans especially appreciate that your journey to the presidency was arduous. You scaled mountains and valleys that most of us thought you couldn't. We heard you remind all and sundry the challenges that faced your candidacy. We watched and listened racial epithets being hurled at you, but you kept your cool. You never contemplated pulling out of the contest out of the belief that few successes come on a silver platter. How exciting was it to see you rally even people who didn't align with your political and religious ideologies?

You're a true believer in democracy and freedom for all. Democracy and freedom, as the whole world witnessed during the campaigns, are pretty much entrenched in American politics. How else would you have won an election as hotly contested as last year's? You weren't an establishment candidate, but you made it. On various occasions, I heard you say that in America if you try and work hard you can conquer mountains. This doesn't seem to be the case in Africa because greed and corruption seem to be a way of life there. Remind those corrupt African leaders that, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, there's enough for everybody's need but not enough for everyone's greed.

As the rest of the world turns the page on political and economic fronts, your African brothers and sisters remain stuck in the table of contents out of fault not their own, but that of their greedy leaders. They're dying in millions from wars started by power-hungry despots. There's virtually nothing to write about the economic well-being of ordinary Africans because their leaders would rather stuff their own pockets instead of distributing their countries' wealth to all. I'm sure these are the people you were referring to in your inaugural speech when you warned, "To those leaders around the globe who ......blame their society's ills on the West -- know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."

For all of his failings, Africans will judge your predecessor, George W. Bush, on what he built, what he contributed to the continent. He looks like a messiah to Africa for the massive aid he channeled there to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other neglected diseases. Imagine what you could contribute in Africa if you helped tamp down the corruption and waste that daily plague our people there.

President Obama, how do you plan to deal with leaders who you said "...cling to power through corruption and deceit?" Will you come down hard on them? We hope so. And I advise that you start with your late father's birthplace, Kenya. That country is slowly becoming an eyesore. Recently President Kibaki signed a law that empowered the government to seize broadcasting stations and open people's mail. This is the same person who's reported to have said that your victory inspired many people.

President Obama, memories are still fresh about the events of December 2007 in Kenya, when post-election violence claimed the lives of about 1,500 people. Politicians, some of whom now serve as cabinet ministers in the coalition government of President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, presided over horrendous killings of innocent Kenyans whose only sin was to belong to the wrong tribe. Nobody has been brought to book so far. Actually, they continue looting public resources with abandon. Lately, they've been implicated in the disappearance of close to $10 million meant to buy corn for starving populations. Last month, it was revealed that $87 million was lost in an oil pumping station scandal; some government officials were implicated in the scandal. Around the same period, an additional $100 million was lost from an oil deal gone sour. On the day of your inauguration, some government officials wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars to travel to D.C. despite the fact that you had not invited them. All this is happening in a country to which you have close ties.

President Obama, crack down on corruption and abuse of human rights in Africa. Use your political capital to bring peace to Darfur, Sudan. Help emancipate the people of Zimbabwe from the despotic rule of Robert Mugabe. This - not aid - is the best gift you can give the African continent. Once there's a conducive environment to engage in trade and to express ourselves, without fear of imprisonment of any other form of harassment, the rest will take care of itself.

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